November 2008 Report

Birding in Western Crete

Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Greater Sand Plover, Goshawk, Black Stork and our first Water Pipits, plus loads of Snipe …. A fantastic start to the month with these birds turning up and providing us with very close views.

More Pelican on the 11th and 20th

Bonelli’s Eagle on the 12/13th

Cat Snake on 21st

Bluethroat on 28th

Our Crete species list hits 201

Robin, Goldfinch, Grey Heron 1, Shag 2, Cetti’s Warbler, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Blackbird, at 09.30 Griffon Vulture 2, later 3 more at 17.00. Blue Rock Thrush 1, Kestrel 2, Stonechat, Black Redstart. 12.15 a Short-toed Eagle flew low over the house and headed onto the peninsula. Later at 10pm, a Barn Owl.

Short-toed Eagle, photo by and © C&S

Hooded Crow, Sardinian Warbler, Robin , Cetti’s Warbler, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Great Tit, Woodlark, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Crested Lark and a single Starling was seen sat on a telephone pole. Scanning the beach with the scope we spot a wader on the rocks below, driving down gives us a views once again of Greater Sand Plover, is it the same bird returned ? It has arrived ten days earlier than when we first spotted it last November, its using the same spots to feed and rest.

Sand Plover, photo by and © C&S

As we are already out we take a trip onto Gramvousa, we find there is not much about but get Yellow Wagtail, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Crested Lark and Collared Dove. Stonechats are everywhere sat on fence posts and the larger dead flowers heads. We add Raven, Hooded Crow and Black Redstart.

Back at home a Sparrowhawk, 10+ Song Thrush chase up and down the gulley behind the house, 2 Griffon Vulture are seen at 17.15 as dusk arrives they fly off towards Falasarna. A Kestrel and Black Redstart.

Hooded Crow, Robin, Italian Sparrow, Great Tit, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Kestrel, and 2 Sparrowhawk are seen before breakfast. Whilst sat out having breakfast we spot with the Kestrel and Sparrowhawk … Common Buzzard and 2 pale morph Booted Eagle and 1 dark morph Booted Eagle.

Booted Eagle, photo by and © C&S

Booted Eagle and Hooded Crows, photo by and © C&S

Booted Eagle
, photo by and © C&S

3 Crag Martin fly through and Woodlark are heard on the slopes nearby. A Shag suns itself on its usual rock near the Balos Hotel and White Wagtail feed in the sheep field below. Crested Lark, Greenfinch and Raven are all seen soon after. A Trip into Kissamos , The Greater Sand Plover is still present, a Yellow-legged Gull, Kingfisher, Collared Dove, Common Buzzard and Stonechat.

At 13.50 we are joined by a pale morph Booted Eagle hunting very close by, giving us 2 hours of excellent  viewing and photography as it stooped into our olive trees and soared effortlessly sometimes just metres above us.

Hooded Crow, 2 Common Buzzard, Robin and Goldfinch. The three Booted Eagle are still present and stay for most of the day hunting nearby. Cetti’s warbler, Italian Sparrow, Kestrel, Black Redstart, Blackbird, at 10.25 2 Griffon Vulture appear along with 2 Short-toed Eagle that hunted on the hill behind the house.

Two Short-toed Eagles, photo by and © C&S

Great Tit, Raven, Chaffinch, Crested Lark and Stonechat. Late morning as we are just about to set off for Kissamos, a Goshawk flies in very low towards the house from the west. True to form by the time I had grabbed the camera, which was already on the drivers seat the bird had flown fifty metres off and the chance missed.

In and on route to Kissamos….. We stop to watch the Greater Sand plover for a while and find it has moved location but still giving great views.  3 Blue Rock Thrush, 1 Kingfisher, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Squacco Heron.

Squacco Heron, photo by and © C&S

Common Sandpiper, photo by and © C&S

Linnet, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, House and Italian Sparrow, 1 Common Buzzard, 4 White Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail and a Yellow-legged Gull.

Late afternoon we meet Nikos Samaritakis and luckily find the Greater Sand Plover for him to get a few pictures. We agree to meet soon for a field trip.

We have to take some water pumps in for repair to Chania, whilst there we took a trip to Maronis River Reserve Souda fishing harbour and  Lake Agia.

Before setting off we get the following sixteen species before and during breakfast…… Robin, Hooded Crow, Great Tit, Black Redstart, Italian Sparrow, Goldfinch , Crested Lark, Raven, Blackbird, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Woodlark, Blue Tit and as we set off a Peregrine Falcon.

ON ROUTE…. No sign of the Greater Sand Plover, but we get a Lapwing another species we do not see enough of.

Lapwing, photo by and © C&S

Crested Lark, 6 Corn Bunting and whilst watching these in the distance through the binoculars we spot 3 Griffon Vulture, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, 3 Common Buzzard and another Sparrowhawk, Collared Dove, Stonechat Black Redstart and 3 Blue Rock Thrush.


We take in the small fishing harbour first, our target bird here is the Pelican, we have been informed of 2 birds here as well as the Georgopouli three……  we soon spot 5 Little Egret, and 3 Black-headed Gull, walking towards the river a Kingfisher flies up from beside us, we spot three more whilst here, also Redshank and Common Sandpiper.

Redshank, photo by and © C&S

Further upstream we find 6 Coot, 2 Moorhen and a couple of immigrants fishing, seeing us looking their way with binoculars they very soon disappear! There is a no fishing policy here that no one bothers with normally, but the chance of anymore birds in the area are dashed. We return on a path slightly inland over some derelict ground and get Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, 1 Common Buzzard sat on a dockyard building, House and Italian Sparrow, 60+ Starling, Willow Warbler, Corn Bunting and Goldfinch.

We drive to the other side of the harbour with still no sign of Pelican and pull up very close to a Little Egret that obliges us by staying nearby and enabling some photography.

Little Egret, photo by and © C&S

Wee decide on a quick look along the path at the reserve proper and are delighted to find that they have cleaned the area up, fencing is still knocked down but the rubbish has been removed and the overgrown gravel paths are now back to normal. Rubbish bins are cleaned with plastic bags inserted and it is a pleasure to walk along here again.

With still no sign of the Pelicans we move on to Agia, We were later informed by Nikos that the birds were a little more hidden on the very right of the fishing harbour near the houses, the only place we never got really near to, and very close to where we were at the end of our stop at the harbour.


We arrive to find the water levels down again, but what a surprise with the birds seen…A BLACK STORK flies up from nearby soon after our arrival, circling ever upwards it moves off towards the south.

Black Stork, photo by and © C&S

We stop by the pump house and start counting .. 14 Shoveler, 5 Mallard,

7 Grey Heron, 1 Great Egret, 123+ Moorhen, Coot 400+, 50+Little Grebe,

1 Little Bittern and 6 Water Rail. These two species were very close and not bothered by our presence.

Little Bittern, photo by and © C&S

Water Rail, photo by and © C&S

10+ Kingfisher.  2 Gadwall, 2 Garganey, there may have been more of these but they were in amongst the many other birds in a tight group and impossible to count.

Ferruginous Duck 30+, Pochard 20+, Teal 20+, Snipe 23 the most we have seen together.

Sue has wandered off to the right of the pump house and we both sight the Black Stork coming back in, it arrives on the southern mudflats, Sue races back and we get some distant pictures.

Black Stork, photo by and © C&S

Black Stork and Grey Herons, photo by and © C&S

We telephone Nikos and Alan but the phone battery goes down before we can call others to see it. Nikos arrives within half an hour and sets off to try to get some closer views. When he returns we get Marsh Harrier 2, Little Stint 1 and Water Pipit 2… another new species for us taking our Crete list to 200….these are feeding in the mud opposite with the Snipe.

Stonechat, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit. Cetti’s Warbler, which although were very close, just would not co-operate and allow us to photograph them as usual. Hooded Crow 10+, Common Buzzard 2, Black Redstart, 1 Grey Wagtail, 3 White Wagtail, 60 + Starling flew in to roost, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Italian and House Sparrow, Robin. We left just before dark arriving home too late in the day to hopefully add the greater sand plover.

Within an hour we spot ……Greenfinch, Robin, Hooded Crow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Stonechat, 15 Corn Bunting, 2 Common Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, 2 Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Linnet, Kestrel, Chaffinch, 1 Shag, Sparrowhawk…3 sightings through the day. Blues Rock Thrush, Raven, Woodlark, Crested Lark and Peregrine Falcon. A drive to the beach road to see if our rarity is still present, but unfortunately there is no sign of it. Instead we get the Lapwing which is now sat on the rocks very well hidden near where we last saw the GS Plover. White and Grey Wagtail are seen in small numbers in the roadside fields.

Common Buzzard, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird, Lapwing 1, Crested Lark, Hooded Crow, Blue Rock Thrush 1, Shag 1, Great Tit, Raven, Black Redstart and Sardinian Warbler.

Raven, Hooded Crow, Griffon Vulture 1, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Great Tit and Italian Sparrow.

Peregrine Falcon, Yellow-legged Gull, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Black Redstart, Robin, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Raven, Crested Lark and Italian Sparrow.

Hooded Crow, Griffon Vulture 4, pale morph Booted Eagle 1, Crested Lark, Common Buzzard, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart and Stonechat.

We had to take friend  Bob to the airport this morning before we left at 08.00 we saw, Hooded Crow, Stonechat , Crested Lark, Great Tit, Black Redstart, Sardinian Warbler, and Common Buzzard. Later that night a Scops Owl was sat on the fence where we sometimes see the Barn Owl.

On the way back from the airport we investigated the fishing harbour at Souda in the hope we would sight the two Pelicans which we missed earlier this month.

We found them on the bank near a house and fish Shop !! where we observed them being given food from the said shop they allowed us to get really close [three metres] We noticed the older off these juveniles was significantly smaller than the other. Also there…. 5 Black-headed Gull, 2 Yellow-legged Gull, 4 Little Egret and a Kingfisher.

We spend the next week harvesting our olives so little birding done However before our 08.00 start we observe…. Hooded Crow, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Short-toed Eagle, Robin, Italian Sparrow, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush. A very nice sighting was of a juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle that lifted off from just over the hill above the little church  and being harassed by several Hooded Crow, Stonechat and Raven.

An adult Bonelli’s Eagle was spotted high above the ridges on Gramvousa it rose even higher we watched until it appeared as a dot directly above the house. Robin, Great Tit, Kestrel, Hooded Crow, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Crested Lark, Black Redstart and Stonechat ….no more birding we again started harvesting olives at 08.00.

Again we spotted the Greater Sand Plover feeding on the same rocks, several days from the last sighting. Robin, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Blackbird, Black Redstart, Crested Lark and Great Tit. The same a yesterday, no birding after 08.00.

Today would be our last day getting the olives off the trees, Doing our brief birding whilst eating breakfast on the balcony we spotted Blue Rock Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Sardinian Warbler, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Great Tit, Crested Lark, Raven and Black Redstart.

So olives all harvested and the 37kg bags hauled into the trailer and  taken to the mill…… tomorrow we will be birding again.

Well the idea was to have a trip out, sometime during the night the rain started the thunder crashed and the lightning lit up the island, no birding this morning …. The weather cleared up by midday and we managed to get a few birds from home… Hooded Crow, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gull, Goldfinch, Robin, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Black Redstart and Crested Lark. A single Starling was seen sat in a tree, a Shag was seen fishing near the rocks. Great Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Greenfinch and Stonechat .

At 3pm it was off to the mill to watch our olives go through the pressing process. This year we had a reasonable crop and two hours later brought home 105kgs of our own hard worked for Organic Extra Virgin, tomorrow we will go birding again….

Well, we awoke to storms again, torrential rain torrents of muddy water running down the road, thunder and lightning, eventually relenting after 3pm the storm gave us little in the way of birding.

From home we saw only… Hooded Crow, Common Buzzard, Blue Rock Thrush, Robin and Sardinian Warbler. Driving to Kissamos along the beach road, a flock of 30+ Corn Bunting, 1 Kingfisher, Stonechat, Italian and House Sparrow and Collared Dove. At the river mouth ….nothing !

Another night of storms, which again cleared by late morning  we still managed to tick 24 species.

Robin, Common Buzzard, Blackbird, Great Tit, Woodlark, Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Stonechat, Yellow-legged Gull, and Shag 1.

Crested Lark, Greenfinch, White Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Black Redstart [ with 5 now roosting on pergolas].

Sardinian warbler, Kestrel, Goldfinch, a single Griffon Vulture circled high and to the north. Chaffinch, Blue Rock Thrush, Blue Tit, Linnet and Collared Dove.

Late at night we watched one of the most spectacular electrical storms with almost continuous lightning from a single cloud mass for over one and a half hours.

The lightning Clouds, photo by and © C&S

The rains eased by morning and we only managed 16 species today.

Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Black Redstart, Robin, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Great Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Linnet, Chaffinch, Blue Rock Thrush, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, 2 Griffon Vultures, Corn Bunting and Blackbird.

Today we had to visit the vets in Souda for our dog Mia to have her jabs so we had a quick look into Souda Bay.

2 White Pelicans, 4 Little Egrets, 1 Great Egret, 1 Whiskered Tern, Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Cormorant, 2 Kingfisher, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow and 22 Starling. Onroute there and back 1 Kestrel, 1 pale morph Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, Corn Bunting, white wagtail and a single Lapwing near home.

AT HOME very few birds  sighted …Hooded Crow, Robin, Stonechat, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart.

Still experiencing terrific  thunderstorms the birds one again like ourselves took cover and only ten species  were seen ….Great Tit, Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Robin, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crested Lark and Black Redstart. At night whilst walking Mia we found a Cat Snake a small 60cm snake that hunts at night and feeds on lizard and gecko.

Cat Snake, photo by and © C&S

Cat Snake, photo by and © C&S

With the barometer dropping even further and winds getting up to Beaufort Nine, we stood very little chance of improving on yesterdays count and managed only 8 species that braved the storms today……Sardinian Warbler, Hooded Crow, Goldfinch, Linnet, Blackbird, Greenfinch, Yellow-legged Gull and Black Redstart.

With an improvement in the weather this morning we had a chance to find more birds today….. Raven, Hooded Crow, Robin, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Goldfinch, Yellow-legged Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, White Wagtail, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Linnet. A single Griffon Vulture was seen to fly from nearby and soared up and out over the bay where it circled about three kilometres from shore for some time before we eventually lost sight of it. Greenfinch, Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark, Italian and House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Common Buzzard and Corn Bunting.

Corn Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Robin, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Rock Thrush, Goldfinch, Kestrel, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Italian Sparrow, Raven, Linnet and Yellow-legged Gull.

At Kissamos river mouth….3 Kingfisher, 1 Little Egret, 1 Common Sandpiper.

Black Redstart, 2 Kestrel, Linnet, Goldfinch, Hooded Crow, Stonechat, Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Great Tit, Sparrowhawk, White Wagtail, Corn Bunting and Italian Sparrow.

Stonechat, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Hooded Crow, Kestrel, Great Tit, Robin, Linnet, Crested Lark, Black Redstart, Goldfinch, Common Buzzard, Italian Sparrow, Blackbird, Yellow-legged Gull, Rock Dove, White Wagtail and Corn Bunting.

Whilst sat on our friends balcony in Kissamos we spotted in half an hour….Collared Dove, Italian and House Sparrow, Black Redstart, Great Tit, Blackbird, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap, Robin, Stonechat, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, White wagtail, Goldfinch, Linnet and 2 Shag.

A very quiet day with no sign of any of the larger species…..Common Buzzard was seen only briefly early on , Stonechat, Chaffinch, greenfinch, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Goldfinch, Linnet, Robin, Hooded Crow, Raven, Black Redstart, Crested Lark and Blackbird.

Our roosting Black Redstart numbers are now at six. We had noticed when walking our dog Mia at night that one of the roosting birds looked a bit larger as it sat on the outside light above an exit door in to the garden. This bird has been there since mid October and without wishing to disturb any of the birds we avoided direct eye contact and let them slowly get used to us moving around. Due to the poor light these birds are just vague shadows in the darkness, we can see the Black Redstarts as they come in at dusk and dispute their roosts. Today we tried a closer look and managed a photograph and were really pleased to see that the larger bird was actually a Blue Rock Thrush. Previous daily reports from 19th October should have B.R.Thrush added.

Our roosting Blue Rock Thrush
, photo by and © C&S

A phone call from friend Harry that there was a possible Spotless Starling at Agia Lake and they had seen a Bluethroat, a trip tomorrow maybe  on the cards……weather permitting.

Hooded Crow, Black Redstart, Goldfinch, Stonechat, Great Tit, Italian Sparrow, Robin, Common Buzzard, Yellow-legged Gull, Blue Rock Thrush and Kestrel.

The weather although a little chilly at 15oC ! we headed for Agia Lake, stopped off at the Gerani river bridge, spotting 1 Ferruginous Duck, 12 Mallard, 3 Teal, Coot, Moorhen and some feral geese.

AGIA LAKE………… Water levels now restored to full height after the two weeks of heavy rainfall. There are no mudflats visible.

12 Mallard, 20+Shoveler.

Shoveler Duck, photo by and © C&S

40+Teal, 3 Gadwall, 2 Garganey, 30+ Little Grebe, 300+ Coot,  20+Moorhen, Snipe 3, Crag Martin 9, Marsh Harrier 1.

Marsh Harrier, photo by and © C&S

Common Buzzard, Hooded Crow. A pale morph Booted Eagle, Willow Warbler, Kingfisher 3, Yellow Wagtail 1, and several White Wagtail.

After looking several times in the area of the reported Bluethroat we eventually spotted it as it foraged below the wall to the left of the pump station, where it allowed a slow and close approach, it obliged by not worrying about our presence and approached us to within 2 metres. We had fantastic close views for some time of another bird with very few sightings on Crete.

Bluethroat, photo by and © C&S

Bluethroat, photo by and © C&S

Bluethroat, photo by and © C&S

Tufted Duck 4, Pochard 20+, Wigeon 4, Ferruginous Duck 3, Yellow-legged Gull 12, Cetti’s Warbler 2, House Sparrow and Robin.

We headed for Chania to get a spot of shopping, stopping at some small bays just north of Daratsos, west Chania. On route and there we added a single Starling, Goldfinch, Collared Dove, Italian Sparrow, House Sparrow, Serin, Linnet, Greenfinch, Black Redstart, Blackbird, Corn Bunting, and Crested Lark. Another pale morph Booted Eagle and a Cormorant.

Hooded Crow, Italian Sparrow, Rock Dove, Black Redstart, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Stonechat, 5 Griffon Vulture, Blue Rock Thrush, Common Buzzard. A small unidentified Falcon that we only saw a flash of as it tore between the olive trees. Linnet, Greenfinch, Chiffchaff, House Sparrow, Yellow-legged Gull, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Crested Lark and Blue Tit.

The first sightings are White Wagtail as they feed in the wake of the tractors out in force ploughing the grass fields, Black Redstart, Italian Sparrow, Goldfinch and Linnet. Hooded Crow, Robin, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit, Cetti’s Warbler, Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat. A Blue Rock Thrush sits above the small church as a Sparrowhawk flies past the balcony at about four metres distance into a tall tree nearby , the Hooded Crows put it to flight and it returns the same way…. excellent views. Blackbird, Common Buzzard, Blue and Great Tit, Chaffinch and Raven. 60+ Yellow-legged Gull circle a distance away before settling on the sea in the bay. A single Griffon Vulture lifted from the peninsula rising high into the sky before passing over the house as it headed south. Later 12 Griffons lifted from the hills behind the house spiralling high before heading off down the west coast.

Summary for November ….

Big storms took hold from the sixteenth for about a week and a half giving little opportunity to bird.

Lake Agia had very little water, the levels exposed many areas of mud bank which gave the waders a chance to drop in and give us good views. When the levels were back to normal towards the end of the month raising the waters several feet after the heavy rains the duck species took over.

November gave us our first Black Stork on the ground, Cat Snake and another new species…Bluethroat ….more sightings of the Greater Sand Plover which only stayed a few days, at the same time we had close views of Lapwing, which we have only seen one of, at a distance on Agia Lake.

Finding the Pelicans at Souda [ Thanks to Nikos Samaritakis for putting us right on location ][was a treat although they are in an area behind some houses, the area itself is fairly filthy and they are not fending for themselves preferring to accept food from the nearby residents.

The last few days of November see’s the fields below being ploughed up, there is an influx of White Wagtail, a few Meadow Pipit and Corn Bunting can be seen there.

We have not had the Anemones flowering as early this year and we still await their first blooms. The Bermudan Buttercups though are in flower and as the days pass the olive groves and roadside fields will turn a brilliant yellow. Friars Cowl has been in flower for a while and there seem to be more Peacock butterflies around than usual.

The roosting Black Redstart are growing in number on the pergolas and open storm shutters along with more hiding in the garden we think there may be twelve or more close by.

With next month and Christmas knocking at the door we have a few trips loosely planned for December…. the usual Omalos, Agia and Eleafonisi, plus walks into the nearby hills.

Again thanks to Harry and Pam for the Bluethroat information and thanks to the Bluethroat for arriving in time to be on our 2008 Christmas card

We wish everyone a very happy Christmas.

Colin and Sue

Bluethroat Christmas Card, photo by and © C&S

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